Your organisational attitude

Updated: Feb 1 2009, 05:17am hrs
Organisational attitude is a summation of the collective feelings, emotions, beliefs, practices and norms (the right way) that exist at the core of an organisation and forms the substance. Collective individual attitudes determine, influence and exist as organisational attitudes. Though various companies come under an umbrella: share group philosophy, espoused values, performance metrics and shareholder focusthe behaviour and attitudes of each could be different.

Attitudinal organisations show their performance emphasis on collectivism and result-oriented actions, share and reveal truth, communicate and inter-personalise to show mutual respect.

Behavioural scientists define attitude as an enduring disposition to consistently respond in a given manner. And that attitude is primarily an inner state than an overt expression. Management consultants define organisational attitude as a collection of behaviours that is consistent, implicit, and in sync with larger goals. It is a determining tendency, a preparatory act, and a potential adjustment towards an individual or an institution that interacts within the organisation. An organisational attitude is always a pre-stated stand or position or a principle that is taken consistently to show-case organisational identity, revealed as performance reflected through a consistent execution of ideas, motives and perceptions.

Organisations that have mastered collective attitudes showcase their performance in multiple ways. People operate in an environment where consultation precedes action; consistency is seen across the lines of command and processes are strong. Where attitudes are absent at the organisational level, managerial responses are unpredictable, leadership is bestowed with short tempers, performance is demanded through threats of reprisal, and younger managers are made to feel small and insignificant.

A performance-oriented attitude at the organisational level is best done when what is in it for the organisation is concurrently dealt with what is in it for the individual, where organisational crisis is not converted first into a crisis for the individual, where dignity of the organisation is as important as the respect shown to the individual.

An example here is the method adopted by some organisations to let go people post-meltdown. Some organisations saw this as an opportunity to scale up, some to right size and many others to clean up once and for all. KPMG studies on Ready for Future indicates, absence of a clean organisational structure, robust processes and performing culture as the top three reasons for organisational inertia in attitudes.

The relationship between a performing culture and organisational attitudes, like that between behaviours and personality, is never simple. Attitudes are the result of combined and interactive effect of both personality (inner core) and cultural variables (rituals, norms etc). Thus we hold our beliefs not only because we are conditioned to do so but also because we unconsciously adhere to those attitudes.

Many of our attitudes that show aversions and aggressions are rooted in biased stereotypes and negative ideas concerning others. This degree of dislike could have an imagined, rational or factual basis, but are an expression of a tendency to be suspicious of whatever is different from the familiar. Consultants tend to experience mistrust from organisational members. When a combination of individual attitudes, values and performance-orientation culminate into its culture, formation of an organisational attitude is but an inevitable outcome.

The author is partner & country head, human capital advisory, KPMG